Black w/ Plants: Q&A with Danielle Zelue

January 2019–January 2020, Black with Plants will publish q and a on mental health + community building with botanists, college dropouts, horticulturalists, plant care specialists, natural hair experts, social justice advocates, sound therapists, etc. across the thirteen hardiness zones in the United States and African diaspora.

Q. What do you want readers to know about self care? Or a creative project that you are working on? and the role of community building, and its impact on mental health?
Self care is vital to your well being. It is not a selfish act, you need to pour into yourself before you can pour into others. It allows you to give your best to people.  

Community building on social media is about making original and honest content. You may post something that makes a connection and resonates with the viewer. If you engage with people; it opens you up to followers that you can develop a better relationship with. These relationships can foster nurturing environments that can improve mental health.
Q. What about the opportunity to display foliage, etc. online (specifically via IG) first interested you in committing your time and energy to plant care-taking?
I always saw myself as having a “black thumb.” However, last year I went to a plant night where my husband and I made terrariums. I absolutely fell in love! Two days later, I was at a plant nursery purchasing my first houseplant, a pothos. My husband took pictures of me at the nursery and I was full of black girl joy. I uploaded my pictures and added a few hashtags and my feed exploded with lots of love. Seeing pictures of plants made people happy and it made me happy. In particular, seeing people who look like me surrounded by plants and talking about horticulture; is where I found a community. I started searching and following accounts with black women and men who loved plants. I read as many plant books and blogs that I could find on how to take care of plants. I began to look at my growing plant collection as my babies and now it’s part of my self-care routine. It makes me happy to see new growth and it helps to ease my anxiety. I love to feel the dirt between my fingers, it is very cathartic.
Q. What do you think are the five key characteristics of a successful place?

  1. A Safe Space
  2. Engagement
  3. Collaboration
  4. Encouragement
  5. Creativity

Q. Community engagement is a significant obligation of direct service. With that in mind, can you tell us about your experience in engaging with your contacts day-to-day? Do you notice services rendered positively affecting your contact’s psychological wellbeing?
Community engagement is everything! The black plant community I have found on IG makes my heart full. We literally root for each other every day by liking and commenting on a new picture, reacting to an IG story, starting a conversation in a DM, or making arrangements to plant shop together!  It makes a tremendous impact on their psychological well being because you are encouraging that person and vice-versa.
Q. Would you be willing to share a memorable moment from 2018?
A memorable moment for me in 2018 was hosting a vision board party for my closest friends. It was a wonderful experience. I had each friend journal their goals and aspirations for a few minutes and then they amplified it on their board. We shared our goals, dreams, and vulnerabilities with each other; it was such a cleansing experience. I hope it impacted them in the way it did me.
Q. Your perspective is invaluable. Thank you for distilling your talents, sharing your time, and a contributing to the local economy. Can you tell readers a little bit about your perspective on securing space for psychological healing and/or wellness?
Thank you so much! It was a pleasure! Wellness is a journey, not a destination. Everyone takes a different path to find what recharges them and makes them feel whole. Reach out to your community for inspiration, then take what works for you. It is not one-size-fits-all.
Final thoughts from Danielle Zelue (@zelue):

Remember to be your beautiful and authentic self and you will find your tribe.

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